Jeremy Jastrzab
23 Nov, 2005

Heroes Of The Pacific Review

PS2 Review | Hero or Villain?
As we all know, gaming is hardly short of representation in World War first-person shooters. In fact, you could argue that there are too many of them. The thing is, WWII didn’t solely consist of foot soldiering. So even if it’s just for the sake of being something a bit different, it’s good to see Heroes of the Pacific try to take the WWII to a place that it has been very often, especially on consoles. What’s more impressive, is how well it manages to do this.

Heroes of the Pacific is flight-combat game set in the early 1940’s. It’s from the same developers that made Ricky Ponting/Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 and this game will do no harm to a growing reputation. One of the game’s six modes is the campaign. The campaign follows the story of a young Lieutenant stationed in Pearl Harbour. He’s a pilot and his brother is a sailor. It just so happens that the game happens to start out with the famous (or infamous?) bombing that occurred there. The brother happened to be on one of the ships that was downed and this sets your character off on a journey to reap revenge on those who dealt this terrible blow.

As horribly clichéd as this is, it’s not all bad. The story is a vehicle to get you to complete missions but it follows historical moments and is presented in an authentic and suitable manner. It only last the ten separate campaigns that can be knocked over in standard time but you’ve got five other game modes. These include Instant Action, Single Mission, Historical, Training and Multiplayer. With this bevy of modes, there is no shortage of things to do. While the campaigns and historical modes are going to appease aficionados of WWII history, especially when concerning planes, there is enough in the game appeal to almost everyone.

Heroes of the Pacific concentrates on bringing an experience that most people can get access to and it does this without giving away too much. Where other games try to a bit too much by letting you take control of everything in sight, Heroes of the Pacific keeps you in the cockpit. But after playing for a while, there’s no real reason to get out.

Sinking ships is mighty intuitive and wholly satisfying

Sinking ships is mighty intuitive and wholly satisfying
Heroes of the Pacific has two very distinct control schemes, an arcade control scheme and a professional control scheme. What this does, is it appease those who adore a more realistic and simulated experience. At the same it provides for people who can’t get their head or hands around that scheme and gives them an option that is much easier to handle. Belonging to the later group made me very grateful that the scheme existed. Both schemes work well for their desired audiences. While people who generally don’t play flying games will get a better go in this game, we doubt that any one deplores them will have their opinions changed.

That’s a real shame given that Heroes of the Pacific is built off one of the most intuitive design’s of the current generation. Where as many games have tried to be revolutionary at everything and fail, here the developers have stuck to basics and it pays off. Primary objectives concern downing enemy fighter planes and dog-fighting your way out of tough situations. Heroes of the Pacific employs a few simple mechanics that make the game so much easier and intuitive to play. The primary one being that your reticule will flash red when you are “leading” an enemy. You need to lead otherwise directly aiming at an enemy will cause bullets to be off target.

But what if your opponent that is currently targeted is off the screen. With quick hold of the L2 button, the camera points directly at your opponent and allows you to maneuver to get into the desired position with minimal fuss. To add to this, you have simple target select mechanics, a few easy squadron controls and intuitive indicators that make dive-bombing and torpedo launching a total breeze. Even something as simple as landing you craft is done in a friendly, unambiguous manner. On top of it all is a very handy if sometimes cluttered radar.

There are a lot of planes at your disposal

There are a lot of planes at your disposal
You’ll spend most of your time in regions with lots of water and very little land. While you’re in the air, it doesn’t matter but this will determine what kinds of missions you undertake. The mission kinds include ground attack, ground support, escort, defense, patrol, torpedo and dive-bombing. Sometimes you’ll get to do multiple in the one mission. However, there isn’t much deviation from this. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing, it’s just something to be weary of in a time where people expect to be able to do multiple and diverse tasks.

The simple and intuitive approach to combat and completing objectives is what makes Heroes of the Pacific a very good game. While actual gameplay may not deviate too much from this, anyone with remote interest in WWII planes is going to get their kicks from this game. There are over 90 planes that are authentically recreated in an attempt to make them feel as real as possible. The real enthusiasts have a workshop of upgrades to work with and completionists have a lot to unlock.

Both Xbox and PS2 have an online, split screen and LAN multiplayer component. There are a couple of standard modes including Dogfights, Team Dogfights, Capture the Flag as well as some oddities like Fox and Hounds, and Scratch the Flattop which are variations on other FPS multiplayer modes (guess which ones). Where multiplayer reigns supreme is the obvious addition of human players rather than the fairly predictable AI that the game offers. The best part is that there are so many ways to deviously outwit the opponents.

Bombs away!

Bombs away!
As mentioned, one of the drawbacks is that the game sticks to what is does quite closely and doesn’t try to go to far. Given that are such high expectations on depth of gameplay these days, Heroes of the Pacific is a bit of risk in that it stays so close to its objective. While it does accommodate for people that don’t usually play these games, some will never be convinced. That and many people will probably overlook this game simply because it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other titles. Still, the target audience will be more than pleased. If there was one very noticeable draw back, is that the game has very annoying load times.

Visually, the cutscenes are presented in a way reminiscent of newspapers from the 1940’s and have minimal animations. It works very well and looks authentic. During some narrations, there is real-time footage that is surprisingly crisp and clean. In game, the planes are superbly designed and made to look exactly like their real-life counterparts. Looking into the clouds is nice, draw distances go way into the blue beyond and there can be an impressive amount of action going on at once. However, this is partially offset be some terrible land textures and very minimalist ship and land structure models. Were talking minimalist to the point of very early generation textures. Sound-wise, the game doesn’t really seem to anything astoundingly wrong, apart from a couple of very poorly recorded voiceovers. Planes, explosions and gunfire all have enough oomph and whatever music there is, suits the look and feel of the game.

Overall, Heroes of the Pacific is game that shouldn’t be easily overlooked, especially for Xbox owners. PS2 and PC owners have had quite a few flying games but the Xbox only really has Crimson Skies. Even so, this is one of the best built games of recent times and it’s employment of simple mechanics and indicators ought to serve as notice for developers. This being that it’s best to get the basics right and create a game that people can play intuitively, rather than look at. Despite the general lack of pure brilliance that comes with the top games, Heroes of the Pacific provides one of the best and most enjoyable dogfighters in recent memory. The best part is that almost everyone can get involved.
The Score
Heroes of the Pacific is one of the best built games in recent times. Intuitive action makes it simple and satisfying with sim and arcade fans being able to get in on the fun. Easily one of the most pleasent surprises this year. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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